Helicopter parenting on steroids – definitely a first for me

I actually think I have exceptionally good karma lately, despite the last few days of work-related headaches. So this post is not to bemoan that I may not be living right to have such awkward occurrences happen.

Anyone who knows me in real life or anywhere else knows I love, Love, LOVE my kids to the moon and stars and back. They can be my age and they will still be my children and have large holdings of my heart’s real estate. Despite that, I have never been a helicopter parent. I want very much for them to be happy, but it is not now nor has it ever really been my role to make them happy. Teach them ways to get along in the world and how to explore and find their own happy, maybe. But being their mom does not mean I was there to solve all their problems when they were little, and definitely not now that they are adults.

Imagine my surprise and concern when the mother of the girl I am mentoring called this morning. Because we had passed in the breakroom earlier when I was just arriving and she was on her way out with one of the bosses I knew she was fine, but I thought perhaps there was a family emergency of a sort that required we track her down and interrupt the meeting she was attending. I picked up the phone mentally prepared to hear bad or alarming news. Never did I imagine what was actually said.

The mom was calling to discuss her daughter’s recent job performance issues and to let me know that my mentee is a very smart, very sensitive girl who needs to be handled carefully and thoughtfully. As a parent, she knows it is unusual, but apparently the mom and dad still have quite a bit of influence and were just sure, if they knew the extent of the performance issues, they could help her get up to speed and overcome them.

I thought I was being pranked by one of the staff at first, but these are attorneys, the staffer in question is quite sensitive and prickly-pearish, and no way would the boss do this to me. As the woman droned on I realized I was actually speaking to a 28-year-old woman’s mother who was inserting herself into her daughter’s professional work life. Absolutely unreal. And for goodness sakes – WHY ME?

When it was finally my turn to talk, I told her in no uncertain terms that I could not, would not discuss any employee’s status or performance with anyone outside the firm and her inquiry was completely inappropriate. I said it nicely, professionally, but really firmly, and her reply was “but I’m her mother” as if I were a teacher and we were discussing her minor child. I repeated myself, suggested she discuss her daughter’s issues with her daughter, and finally pleaded meeting tardiness to get off the telephone.

I do not think my associate has any idea that her mom called or was planning to call, and I think I am not going to mention it to her unless she brings it up. It’s horrifying enough for me to think about as both a mother and a daughter, and I certainly do not want to add to her stress by remarking upon it.

Having read stories about extreme helicopter parents I sort of knew it happens, but this is the first – and hopefully only – time it has ever happened to me. I think I handled it correctly, but it’s new and I am second guessing myself. But I know if I ever did that to either of my kids they would disown me and as C said she would see about having me committed to an lockdown Alzheimer’s facility because, clearly, I would have lost my mind.

I feel really awful for my associate. If she knew her mom’s intentions, how sad that she is still so immature and not ready to be living in the chronologically adult world. (But I truly do not believe that is the case here.) Because I believe she had no idea what her mother would do with the information about her professional struggle right now, I imagine she would be horribly embarrassed about her mom’s behavior. I am mortified enough for both of us.

Ugh. I should be thinking Thursday training recap and the happy re-signing for more training with J. Instead I cannot get this phone call out of my head. Poor associate; our brief interaction this morning was quite pleasant, too.

10 thoughts on “Helicopter parenting on steroids – definitely a first for me

  1. I think you should mention it to the associate if only so she is aware and can make sure her mom never calls you or anyone else ever again. As embarrassing as it would be I would want to know that it happened. That’s just my two cents though.

    • Thanks, Kay. I am going to wait until I see her next and just see how it goes … I’d probably want to know as well, but at this point I just don’t know how to bring it up. Ugh. I hate being a boss.

  2. I would like to say I am surprised but a few years ago some investment bankers in NY told me how they had to develop a program for the analysts parents who would call asking about pay/benefits/work/performance/etc. The sad part was the analysts (all 20 somethings out of college) *knew* their parents were calling and were completely fine with it. I would have died of embarrassment. I do think you have to tell her somehow – it really is inappropriate and she needs to know that.

    • I know, but I’m such a coward I was so happy to be out of the office before she and the partner returned from their client meeting. This gives me 24 hours and at least one gym practice to mull it over and become a stronger person who can deal with her professionally and without cringing while I tell her what happened.

      Seriously? Investment bankers? OMG – that’s crazy! I thought I was going to die today when I realized the mom was not calling about some dire family emergency but actually calling to try and coach me/the firm about dealing with her sensitive daughter an dthe issues. Ugh. Not looking forward to tomorrow.

  3. She’s almost 30 years old and her mother is calling! W.O.W.! I think if I were the employee I’d want to know if my parent had done something like that. I’m not sure how you go about bringing it up either. Did you tell the company owners that she called? No wonder she has issues relating to others in the office – her mom has always done it for her. LOL.

    • No, today was a short day for me, and she and the partner that she works for were out doing a deposition or something. I didn’t mentioned it to anyone in the office and will deal with it tomorrow. By then I will hopefully figure out what to say.

  4. All three kids would have me committed!! Maybe she tried to talk to her mom in confidence and the mother is just so used to overstepping her bounds that calling you felt normal. I have never called my kids out of work(well except when one was in emergency surgery but I don’t think that counts). And same as you if a family member called I would automatically think it was an family emergency.

  5. Wow! I can’t even imagine getting that phone call. Or ever being the person making that phone call. I don’t know how I’d go about it, but I would mention it to your co-worker. If she thinks it’s normal, that’s another thing to work with her on, but if she didn’t know about it, she needs to tell her mom to stop this kind of thing. It might be becoming more normal in the workplace, but it won’t help her at all in her life. I’m only 37, but I don’t remember such involvement from parents of my friends. Definitely not my parents. They are the most loving, supportive parents, but from the time I left for university at 17 I did pretty much everything by myself.

    • Your parents sound absolutely stellar, Marcelle. I have been in the office for 20 minutes and still have not decided how to handle the situation … maybe put it off until Monday? I do plan to talk to her about it, and am presently waiting to see if she says anything about it to me first. We have a busy day ahead, though, and I recognize my own procrastination on dealing with it. Mostly I am hoping she opens the discussion about it; it feels as if I could learn a more if it happens that way.

      • I would be procrastinating on talking to her too. Such an awkward topic. From the few things you’ve mentioned about her (and the reasons why you’re having to mentor her in the first place) I’d be surprised if she opens the discussion about it. I hope I’m wrong! :).

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